In an interesting piece in today's Irish Times newspaper, children’s fantasy and horror writer, Darren Shan, pays tribute to Bram Stoker. Shan achieved worldwide success with his The Saga of Darren Shan series, the first three books of which have recently been adapted into the film Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. One hundred years after Stoker’s death, he proudly acknowledges the rich legacy of Bram Stoker's Dracula for all writers working within the horror genre.
Dracula is not just a career-defining work, which is rare, but a genre-defining work, which is far rarer. While it might seem impossible now to think of a world without dark, brooding, fanged bloodsuckers who turn to ash if exposed to the rays of the sun, without Stoker’s seminal work they would still probably be nothing more than a literary curio, by all means much-explored monsters, as they were before he laid hands on them, but ones that were little known or cared about by anyone bar those with a true interest in the grotesque.
Vampires had been around long before Bram Stoker hit the scene, undead creatures of myth who had cropped up in various forms in many cultures. But Stoker was the one who brought the myths together and combined them to create a single entity far greater than the sum of its parts. In a way he was like the Bismarck or Garibaldi of horror, uniting individual horrific elements into one majestically monstrous beast, an empire builder who worked with mental states as opposed to those of the topographical kind.
For Shan, it is their capacity for reinvention that explains the appeal of vampires throughout the generations. He writes:
Vampires have been evolving over the decades, reworked by one generation after another. They have almost become a mirror image of ourselves, a way for humanity to explore its darkest fears and dreams. We keep getting so much out of vampires because we are able to pour so much into them.
To date there have been over 170 film adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula and the influence of his writing is seen in every type of vampire book, film and television show. From Hammer horror to paranormal romance, from Twilight to True Blood, it seems that Stoker's legacy is undead and definitely not forgotten.